Four weeks on

The Guardian carries extensive coverage of yesterday’s public rally in Belfast in support of the McCartney family – including a timeline of events since the murder. One of the articles also notes Paula McCartney response to “a whispering campaign against the family” – “Robert’s murderers were the ones who damaged Sinn Féin so let’s keep the blame where the blame belongs.”As well as the family’s rejection of the version of events included in the IRA statement, there’s also a brief account of the confrontation at the rally between an uncle of Robert McCartney and Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey –

Despite the IRA’s court martial and expulsion of three members – allegedly including the former officer commanding the Belfast brigade – the family claim at least nine others implicated in the killing are being sheltered by the organisation.

They also claimed the IRA’s version of the murder outside a Belfast pub – in which Mr McCartney and a friend were beaten, stabbed and left for dead – was wrong and that a whispering campaign against the family was being conducted.

The unprecedented protest in Sinn Féin’s heartland has put the party under severe pressure with Alex Maskey, the former Sinn Féin mayor of Belfast, openly confronted on the street yesterday.

Asked whether, as residents claim, two of the men involved in the clean-up after the murder had previously acted as his election workers, he said he would not comment on “falsehoods in the media”.

He also denied claims by residents that republicans had ordered children to riot in the Markets area to impede police investigating the murder.

As he was answering these questions, one of Robert McCartney’s uncles burst through the crowd, shouting: “You have nine other members of this gang … who butchered my nephew. When are you going to hand them over? You couldn’t even remember Robert’s name [after the murder]. Hand over the 12.”

There are claims that those involved in the murder are still under IRA protection –

Despite the IRA’s call on Friday night that no one should be intimidated into not giving evidence, one Short Strand source said the three expelled IRA men were still considered to be under their protection.

The source said the IRA members were at their homes and one was at an IRA safe house. One of the men involved in the murder had been expelled before, but was allowed back shortly afterwards, after undergoing a punishment shooting.

A senior local IRA member was seen at the rally and several IRA members not involved in the murder were seen walking around the area before the rally. One source said: “This was a subtle form of intimidation.”

And, as reported in today’s Irish News, the individual who was widely reported as giving a statement to the police was not one of those expelled by the IRA –

A man who was questioned by police and released this weekend was not one of the three expelled IRA men.